STORY BY ADAM ROGAN
Drake participated in a total of eight periods of competition over the past week, playing in two matches that both went into double overtime.
The Bulldogs hosted the Omaha Mavericks on Wednesday night and played to a 1-1 draw before losing via golden goal to the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE) Cougars on Saturday.
The loss to SIUE was Drake’s first conference loss of the season and dropped the Bulldogs to third place in the Missouri Valley Conference. The two goals in the match against Omaha came at the opposite ends of regular time.
The Mavericks took the lead in the sixth minute when Drake allowed Omaha redshirt sophomore Logan Mendez to get his head on a cross and put the ball into the back of the net.
Following the mistake, the Bulldogs were able to control the match on both ends of the pitch, but they still struggled to score. Drake took 18 shots in the match while Omaha only had six, but the Bulldogs were unable to even the score until the 88th minute.
Drake defender Adam Weatherley fired a deep shot that looked as though it might go in for the equalizer until it met the crossbar and bounced back into play. Junior James Wypych seized the opportunity and sent the rebound into the back of the net with a header.
The score remained tied through the rest of regulation and overtime. Even though Drake outshot Omaha 7-2 in extra time, neither team was able to find the net and the match ended in a draw. The Cougars took to the field with tenacity under the lights of Cownie Field on Saturday night. SIUE needed an upset to remain near the top of the MVC against the top-ranked Drake Bulldogs, who had been undefeated in conference play so far in 2015 entering the match.
SIUE earned several chances early in the match, but struggled to find the net as the Drake defense made clearances when it mattered most. Goalkeeper Darrin MacLeod was put to work early and made a diving save in the fifth minute, his first of four saves in the contest.
Despite SIUE controlling the pace of play in the early minutes, Drake was able to take advantage of their opponent’s overly aggressive scheme.
“Our ability to build from the back to the middle, that was pleasing,” head coach Gareth Smith said. “I was happy with how we created opportunities.”
In the 20th minute a fantastic diving save by SIUE goalkeeper Kyle Dal Santo prevented a Drake goal. But the Bulldogs were still able to retain control of the ball and kept creating chances.
Four minutes later, they were rewarded.
Midfielder Mueng Sunday found space and drove toward the net before making a quick pass to Gabe Edel at the goal line for the score. The goal was Edel’s third of the season and Sunday’s sixth assist.
Drake held onto the 1-0 lead through the rest of the first half. In the second half it became clear that SIUE was determined not to remain goalless.
SIUE defender Justin Bilyeu sent a perfectly placed cross into the box in the 55th minute and found Jabari Danzy for the score.
The equalizer gave the Cougars confidence and momentum. Their aggression did not taper and the game grew increasingly physical, particularly on free balls at midfield.
SIUE’s midfielders used their superior size to win the majority of free balls throughout the match. This helped them dominate in terms of ball control and stay competitive even after the Bulldogs retook the lead in the 71st minute.
Edel found space along the right sideline in the attacking third and crossed the ball into the box. He found junior Wypych for his team-leading sixth goal of the season and Drake took the lead, 2-1.
Wypych had two chances on goal the very next minute, but both were saved by the SIUE backline. Dal Santo, despite giving up two goals, made an
impressive eight saves in the match. SIUE’s defenders did their job as well by contributing three team saves. The Cougars struck again in the 73rd minute, tying the match up at two after Drake’s failure to extend the lead.
MacLeod attempted to clear a dangerous ball with a punch, but Danzy was able to take control of the ball and put it into the back of the net for his second goal of the game.
Drake was being slowly worn down in the second half. SIUE had only one shot in the first half, but turned it around with 10 in the second. Several of their attempts were off target however, as MacLeod was only forced to make three saves in regular time.
Great defense by Drake redshirt sophomore Nick Manzoni in the 89th minute prevented a potential breakaway for SIUE that could’ve potentially ended the match. The ensuing possession almost turned into an attack on goal for the Bulldogs, but a misguided pass from Manzoni rolled out of play and time expired soon after.
The match then moved into overtime.
Defense was all that mattered in the first period of extra time. SIUE made several clutch saves and clearances to prolong the match as Drake was able to keep the ball in the attacking half for most of the period.
Sunday had a shot cleared out of bounds for a corner in the 95th minute. Edel’s kick from the corner nearly led to a game- winner for the Bulldogs, but another diving save by Dal Santo preserved the 2-2 score.
Drake had twice as many shots as SIUE in overtime, but the Cougars would take the only shot that mattered in the game’s final period.
In the 105th minute, SIUE junior Ivan Gutierrez took a desperation shot on goal from more than 40 yards out. The shot rocketed off of his foot and curled goalwards. MacLeod made a diving attempt for the ball, but it slipped past into the lower right corner of the net.
“We need to tighten up on transition into defending and making sure, like in the final goal there, that we’re getting enough pressure on the ball when the ball gets turned over,” Smith said. “We’ve had 17 attempts on goal, which is usually enough to win the game, but we just fell asleep a couple of times in key moments in the game.”
SIUE walked away victorious 3-2 and the Bulldogs hung their heads, their undefeated conference season broken.
“Tonight we’re disappointed in the result,” Smith said. “Probably not disappointed in the performance.”
The Bulldogs will be on the road next week for a Halloween night match against Loyola. Their final regular season match will take place a week later, on Nov. 7, for Senior Night at home against Bradley.